data journalism

Focus on investigative data-led stories in the areas of policy, health, science and the environment. These are published in national newspapers and international news outlets  

an investigation into superbugs in the Irish health system


sick-of-hospitalsA four-month investigation into the less well-known superbugs: VRE, ESBL and CRE

PUBLICATIONS (2014)

The Sunday Times

♦  Front Page: Hospitals fail to stem superbugs

♦  Full-Page News Focus: Sick of Hospitals

The Irish Times

♦  Full-Page Health Feature: Special delivery: Microbes fresh from Ireland

♦  Science Feature: The global march of antibiotic resistant bugs

♦  Full-Page Health Feature: Bed occupancy far above safe levels


award-winning

Articles from this investigation were key to winning the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) Newcomer Award, Britain & Ireland, in 2015.

discovered

  • Irish hospitals not complying with infection control guidelines
  • Bed occupancy in hospitals far above safe levels
  • Thousands being spent by the HSE to send samples for testing in the UK
  • Increasing levels of antibiotic resistance in Ireland

data analysis

Source documents: Unpublished HSE survey, freedom of information requests, press requests, HSE guidelines and reports, HIQA reports, NHS manuals, OECD reports, EU disease surveillance data and interviews with experts. Here is a breakdown of the main sources used:


bed4_plot-2

HEALTH DATABASES

Reports from Irish, EU and international organisations were analysed and the raw data was extrapolated to see where Ireland ranked.

Through this analysis, discovered Ireland had among the highest hospital bed occupancies in the world. As shown by this graph which has been updated with the latest OECD data, Ireland has now jumped into first place.

Trawling through these reports and databases also yielded some interesting statistics on the superbugs being investigated. ESBL was more prevalent than MRSA for the first time and Ireland had the highest frequency of VRE in Europe.


original data

Unpublished data was sourced through FOI requests and contacts in the scientific and healthcare sector.

Data was obtained on almost all acute Irish hospitals which enabled a comparative analysis to be done on the proportion of isolation rooms and bed occupancy in each hospital. These are both influential factors in infection control as a lack of isolation rooms and high occupancy rates can lead to the spread of superbugs and other infections.

This graph illustrates some of the original data used in the investigation:


skills


R2

R PROGRAMMING

Trained in the programming language R to undertake data analytics. Skills include analysing large datasets, computing statistics, drawing graphs and undertaking regression analysis.

SCIENCE

Completed undergraduate degree in science, specialising in genetics. This involved a lot of data analysis and provides a solid background for data journalism.


investigative & data-driven stories


Have undertaken a number of large and small investigative reports and projects. Here are some examples:

ars technica / cancer world

If genetic screening helps those at risk, why not screen everyone?

Long-form (4,000 word) creative non-fiction piece analysing the pros and cons of genetic screening. Investigation funded by a journalism grant from Cancer World magazine, an initiative of the European School of Oncology to encourage high-quality reporting on cancer.

the pharmaceutical journal

Treating Lyme disease: when will science catch up?

Review and analysis of the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease, an often controversial disease with numerous contrary medical opinions. This involved talked to international experts and analysing research papers and statistics. This was published in a scientific journal so includes science and pharmaceutical terminology.

chemical watch

Researchers urge more protection for workers from organic flame retardants

Since early 2019, have been a regular reporter for the online chemical policy magazine, Chemical Watch. These stories involve analysis of reports and investigation of scientific studies. This is an example of a report on research that was not well publicised showing that flame retardants can be a health risk to workers.



Have published a number of other stories that involved data discovery and analysis. Here are a few examples from The Sunday Times:

News Page 4: Ministers bypass debate to rubber stamp EU directives

Analysed 442 Irish statutory instruments and highlighted the lack of oversight by the Oireachtas in the implementation of EU regulation

News Page 4: Commercial research ‘like herding cats’

Interviewed the state’s chief scientific adviser about ‘priority-driven’ scientific funding. As part of this, analysed research funding data and discovered there was nearly a threefold increase in the number of funding applications rejected on ground of eligibility in the first few months of that year.

News Page 8: Child vaccine targets missed

Analysed HSE data for all areas in Ireland and discovered childhood vaccination targets were not being reached in most regions of Ireland. Highlighted the worst-performing areas which were Dublin North West and West Cork.

Front Page: Cervical cancer on rise in Ireland

Reported on statistics from the National Cancer Registry which showed that the rate of cervical cancer was increasing and occurring more frequently in Ireland than in the UK.

Front Page: One in three young medics ‘will refuse to do abortions’

Regularly conduct searches of scientific research related to Ireland and discover unpublicised work. This is one example of a study which was very relevant to the political climate at the time but had not received any news attention.